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Could how you exercise be preventing you from losing body fat?

As a Master Trainer I am saddened to see “diet culture” pervade into the fitness realm.    So many seem to think that the only purpose of exercise is “lose weight” and the fitness industry is constantly promoting ‘working out’ solely to “burn fat”.  We have lost our healthy relationship with exercise/fitness and developed unhealthy and worse even counterproductive exercise habits, that don’t achieve anything.

Exercise should NOT just be about burning calories.    But when it is?  Well that’s even more sad, to see people flogging themselves crazy to lose weight when in fact the very exercise they are doing often causes weight loss to stall.


  • It isn’t adding to your life, rather its controlling it;
  • it isn’t fun or rewarding, rather feels like punishment;
  • Exercise leaves you exhausted not energised;
  • You exercise to punish yourself for what you ate;
  • Working out is purely about weight loss and never about strength, flexibility, mobility, injury management, energy or wellbeing;
  • You don’t listen to your body and instead exercise because you “should”;
  • You don’t adequately fuel your workouts and instead train in a fasted or energy depleted state;
  • You exercise because you “should’, even if you haven’t slept well or sick;
  • You are constantly sore and aching from your training;
  • You are not getting results;



Fasted cardio is the worst advice that can be given, and I hear it all the time.

A lack of fuel (glycogen) is what drives the thyroid-suppressive stress response when you exercise.  The fuel your body needs to perform without being stressed comes from the food you eat.

Fasted cardio is a sure fire way to downregulate your metabolism and it also makes your hungrier throughout the day.

When you exercise with a low fuel supply (not enough carbs to supply energy), your body doesnt have any reserved glycogen and starts releasing massive amounts of cortisol, (stress hormones) to create energy.

It’s the cortisol which downregulates thyroid production, lowers metabolism and slows all your bodily systems down, to save what glycogen you do have to keep you functional.  This also means slowing down fat loss.

Doing cardio in a fasted state is a common recommendation in the fitness industry yet exercising without any carbs or glycogen increases cortisol and estrogen and reduces thyroid and metabolism.    So your body slows down the rate it burns calories – which makes weight gain inevitable.   I personally think you are better to even not exercise at all than to exercise in a fasted state.

As a coach I recommend having protein and carbs before any type of exercise (if you are up early then it can even be something as simple as a coffee, with gelatin, sugar and cream – or OJ and gelatin)

Carbs pre training are the most important as they are associated with preventing the exercise-stress cycle.   Skipping meals or exercising on an empty stomach is a quick way to drive your stress hormones even further through the roof.

”Incidental stresses, such as strenuous exercise combined with fasting (e.g., running or working before eating breakfast) not only directly trigger the production of lactate and ammonia, they also are likely to increase the absorption of bacterial endotoxin from the intestine. Endotoxin is a ubiquitous and chronic stressor. It increases lactate and nitric oxide, poisoning mitochondrial respiration, precipitating the secretion of the adaptive stress hormones, which don’t always fully repair the cellular damage.” – Dr Ray Peat

My Pro-Metabolic Meal plan programs will have you eating the right food to fuel your exercise but also to increase your metabolism  If you want optimal results, take the guess work out and use the right nutritional strategy.


I spent years and years doing far too many hours of fasted cardio just to stay in shape.  Whilst I looked great, I was far from healthy.  I was exhausted, constantly tired, I had trouble sleeping, I suffered from bloating, I felt moody, flat and my cycle was irregular.  To make matters worse, as my metabolism was slowing down, I needed to do more and more cardio as the years past just to stay lean.  Crazy!

Once I focused on increasing metabolic rate and eating more of the right food, I can now rely on my metabolism and the right nutrition to keep me lean and I no longer need excessive cardio.


 It’s so important to listen to your body and exercise according to what your body and mind needs rather that what you feel like you “should” do.

We forget that most training is a stress on our body and adding more stress to an already stressed body is never healthy – it’s a sure fire way to downgrade metabolism whilst not recovering.   If your body is stressed, you are fatigued, or unwell it is not wise from a health perspective to elevate your stress levels further with frequent, vigorous exercise.  Over time, repeated stresses can affect us at the cellular level creating adaptive changes such as a slowed heart rate and suppressed metabolism – we then are more likely to store fat and create hormonal and metabolic issues. Be Wise

Pain is your body’s way of telling you to rest.  Occasional muscle soreness is OK, but you should not experience pain while working out.

Forcing yourself to exercise when you haven slept or you’re getting a cold as a means of losing weight can actually have the opposite effect and result in the further suppression of your thyroid, a slower metabolism, and ultimately more future weight gain.  Totally counterproductive.

Sometimes a walk instead of a HIIT session will serve you better.   Othertimes stretching instead of squatting may be what your body needs.

 “Generally, a person’s body will give them the feedback that it’s time to put traditional exercise methods on hold for a time. Decreased tolerance to stress or exercise, slowed recovery, accelerated time to fatigue, chronic aches, sleep problems, and poor digestion are endocrine warnings indicating that changes need to be made.”  Rob Turner.   Functioning Performance Systems.

 AND….The best way to nourish your body


Fact: To lose weight you need a fast metabolism.

Fact: Weight training puts on muscle, and muscle burns more calories and increases metabolism

Fact: Cardio breaks down muscle, reduces available T3, and increases estrogen –conditions which slow metabolic rate down.  Cardio alone will not help you lose weight

If your exercise regime focuses entirely on burning fat by doing cardio (ie bootcamp, spin classes, treadmill) – you’re doing it wrong.   Because muscle makes all the difference. Muscle will give your body a great shape, it will help it look toned, tight, chiselled, athletic and you will lose flabby bits.

The tissue that makes up muscles is also much more dense than fat.  So it takes up less room in your body, so with more muscle and less fat you actually look leaner (ah but can weight heavier – hence we don’t rely on the scales)

Take a look at this image.  5lbs of fat on top vs 5lb of muscle on the bottom.

Muscle tissue is far more metabolically active than fat tissue, and if gets even better, when you are resting muscles will mainly use fat for energy.  So the more muscle you have the more fat your burn at rest, all day long.    Yip yip yi yah

When you weight train properly you can avoid the thyroid suppressing effect of cardio, whist increasing lean muscle and improving your body shape.  It really is a no brainer.

If you do cardio alone to lose weight it will quite simply work against you

This is not just for athletes.   Any resistance training can help stimulate the growth of muscle tissue to look leaner and toner.

As a coach to professional fitness models I lean towards the “no cardio” principle because it’s known to “eat away” at the muscle that gives the sleep and sexy toned look.  Instead I have my athletes focus on losing body fat from an increased metabolism – and the best way is with Pro-Metabolic Nutrition

 “Concentric resistance training has an anabolic effect on the whole body. Sprinting is probably o.k. Endurance exercise is the worst” – Dr Ray Peat


The greater your exercise intensity and effort the greater your need for rest and recovery.  There are limits to how much stress your body will tolerate before it breaks down, risks injury, slows down metabolism and you start to reduce your results.

Short term recovery – this is the active recovery that happens in the hours after your exercise.   For optimal results you also need to replenish energy and fluid.  It is essential to have a post-exercise meal of carbs and protein to aid recovery (repair of soft tissue, muscles, tendons, and energy) and to remove any toxic chemicals that build up during exercise.


Working out shouldn’t just be about burning calories or weight loss.

It’s so important to remember that exercise is not punishment.   It is a celebration of what your body can do. It’s an opportunity to achieve, feel strong and grow.

For too many of us the relationship between exercise and dieting is intrinsically linked.

In a 2018 study by the CDC it found 68% of people who exercise do so because they want to lose weight!

This should NOT be the goal of exercise at all.    We have forgotten that to move our body is fun and enjoyable.  We exercise to strengthen muscles, improve mobility and flexibility, for those delicious feel good endorphins, to give us more energy, a greater mood, to live longer!

Sadly the fitness industry continuously perpetrates that we exercise to lose weight, when in reality we ALL should be doing some form of exercise for our health and energy


 If you are out of breath for a prolonged period of time, or need to resort to rapid mouth breathing (panting), then your body is likely overproducing lactic acid and shutting down your thyroid gland functioning.  This results in the downregulation of metabolic rate and often a steady increase of cortisol.

Exercise is the most healthy for you when you can maintain your breath through your nose.


Whilst team endurance events are all the rage, anytime you exercise until exhaustion you will lower your thyroid gland functioning.    When thyroid gland functioning is reduced, metabolism is reduced.  This is not a good thing for either fat loss or optimal health.

Excessive or exhausting cardiovascular exercise is plain ol stressful and raises your bodies need for energy.  This is fine if you are adequately fuelling your body with proper nutrition and rest.  But for most who are in a calorie deficit or who have not loaded on carbs, any intense, exhausting exercise is a recipe for metabolic damage.

Why?  When you do exercise that requires constant high energy demands without rest, your fuel supply is burnt really fast and then your body starts to produce stress hormones (cortisol, estrogen and adrenalin).  These hormones are antagonists to protective hormones such as (testosterone, progesterone, thyroid)

It’s an even worse picture if you are already hypothyroid or have some sort of metabolic / thyroid damage because then your body cant store fuel effectively and so it takes very little exercise to be depleted and induce the dreaded stress response.

Yet I still see so many people exercising for hours on end thinking they are hitting the mark to burn a tonne of fat.  This is never a good idea and it seldom works as it causes havoc for hormones and metabolism.

Interestingly, a low pulse rate isn’t a sign of cardiovascular efficiency, optimal health or circulatory strength, but rather a sign of a damaged metabolism and a decreased need for oxygen and nutrients. According to Dr. Ray Peat, a low pulse rate is actually indicative of thyroid damage and is in fact our body’s adaption to go longer on less fuel.

Some fascinating quotes from the research of Dr. Ray Peat.

 Intense exercise damages cells in ways that cumulatively impair metabolism. There is clear evidence that glycolysis, producing lactic acid from glucose, has toxic effects, suppressing respiration and killing cells. Within five minutes, exercise lowers the activity of enzymes that oxidize glucose. Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and general aging involve increased lactic acid production and accumulated metabolic (mitochondrial) damage.”

“Men who went for a run before breakfast were found to have broken chromosomes in their blood cells, but if they ate breakfast before running, their chromosomes weren’t damaged.”

“Besides fasting, or chronic protein deficiency, the common causes of hypothyroidism are excessive stress or “aerobic” (i.e. anaerobic) exercise.  Many health-conscious people become hypothyroid with a synergistic program of undercooked vegetables, legumes instead of animal proteins, oils instead of butter, carotene instead of vitamin A, and breathless exercise instead of stimulating life.”

“In experiments, T3 production is stopped very quickly by even “sub-aerobic” exercise, probably because of the combination of a decrease of blood glucose and an increase in free fatty acids. In a healthy person, rest will tend to restore the normal level of T3, but there is evidence that even very good athletes remain in a hypothyroid state even at rest.”

Stressful exercise, which has been known to cause breakage of the nuclear chromosomes, is now seen to damage mitochondrial genes, too. Providing energy, while reducing stress, seems to be all it takes to reverse the accumulated mitochondrial genetic damage. 

Exercise lowers the level of thyroid hormones, partly by accelerating their breakdown.”

Prolonged endurance exercise will usually slow the pulse because of adaptive inhibition of the thyroid. I have seen some people with the dark circles, fatigue, and other symptoms that stopped as soon as they stopped their daily running.”


  1. Improve your metabolic rate so that you will burn fat faster and naturally, then use exercise to shape your body, develop lean and toned muscles, and feel great about yourself
  2. Change your mindset – exercise because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to
  3. Find an activity that you enjoy and exercise because of all the positive benefits to your body, mind and health. Move because you love your body.
  4. Don’t use exercise as punishment or to burn off something you think you should not have eaten – be gentle with yourself
  5. For fat loss – focus on weight training and pro-metabolic nutrition to improve metabolism – not cardio for fat loss. You will burn way more fat when your metabolism is fast and cardio will only slow it down!!  Link to my pro-metabolic meal plans to learn more
  6. Do not train on an empty stomach – If you like to do cardio at the start of the day, have a little protein and sugar first. I recommend orange juice and gelatin, fruit and cheese, chocolate milk, milk and honey and coffee with cream, sugar and gelati
  7. Do not train if you are exhausted, sick or have not recovered. Be wise.
  8. Maintain ‘nose breathing’ at all times
  9. Once fatigue or strength drops during training, it’s time to listen to the body’s signals and stop.
  10. Enjoy walking…. especially outdoors…but not for more than one hour at a time and not on an empty stomach.
  11. Eat protein and carbs within one hour of training. Carbohydrates will spare muscle by sparing the protein from being used to make glucose. Carbohydrates and protein also help recovery and performance.
  12. HIIT can be effective for short bursts of 20 minutes, but only when nutritionally supported with both calories and carbohydrates.

Burning fat faster and healthier – is actually often about doing less exercise, putting less stress on your body and nourishing yourself – it al starts with the right nutrition.  Nutrition that will increase metabolism.

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  1. Health And Fitness Tips on May 1, 2021 at 9:01 am

    An execllent posting from you, all useful in filling my mind up with helpful
    information. I’ve also taken the time to share this on Twitter :

  2. Brandon on April 20, 2022 at 3:05 am

    Great article and bang on all accounts! Dr Ray Peat is a genius and my go to for ALL health issues ( also don’t take the jab ) and a person will have a long healthy youthful life !

  3. Jese on May 14, 2023 at 9:46 pm

    “Change your mindset – exercise because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to”

    this is the most important point not just in exercice but in life, IMO.

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